Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What belongs in Romance #romance #romancenovel #romancebooks #suzannebrockmann #RWA #RWAConference

This year I had the pleasure to attend the RWA national convention and I got to be in the room for Suzanne Brockmann's amazing speech about inclusion in romance. If you'd like to read the transcript of her amazing speech you can find it here.

As part of her speech, she gave a call to action for romance to be more inclusive. As I listened to her empowered speech, I realized I could improve myself in this area. While I have included some characters of color and have written some LGBT characters, I could do better. I could do more to include more diversity in my writing. Just like Suzanne says, everyone deserves love, and everyone deserves to see themselves in romance novels. EVERYONE.

But even thought I want to work harder at being more inclusive in my novels, I also realized there are some topics that I cannot include in my writing. By no means do I believe that these topics can’t be or shouldn’t be included in romance. I appreciate and respect every story that someone might want to tell. This is my own personal list of topics that I can't handle writing.

1. Cruelty, especially towards kids or animals. More than blood, or gore, or any other horror element, cruelty is the hardest for me to handle. Especially when it is directed towards someone completely innocent, vulnerable and trusting, like a child or an animal. I struggle to handle watching or reading moments of true cruelty in other people’s work, I can’t imagine writing it myself. While I understand cruelty is a part of the world, it definitely goes on my can’t do list.

2. Rape or sexual violence. While I would have no problem writing a character who has survived sexual violence, I can't write the actual act. The violence and terror of it would be too much for me to handle. In every story that I write consent is tantamount. No sexual relation happens without consent. Period.

3. Detailed descriptions of violence or gore. While these types of descriptions might be important to some stories, they are not the type of scenes I want to write. My characters do get injured occasionally, and there has been a fist fight or two within my books. But I can’t imagine any way that I could write a prolonged scene of gore or violence. At least on screen. Just the idea has my stomach churning a little.

These are my personal hard writing limits. I have no issue with anyone else incorporating these topics into their stories, but I can't write them. Nor do I want to. As much as these items are a part of real life, they are what I read romance to get away from. Though I believe in inclusion, and agree that romance novels should more accurately reflect the real world, they are still escapism for me—and I believe most of the readers—and there are some parts of reality I don’t want to intrude in our happy romance world. For me, these three are it.

What do you think? Is there any topics that you don't want included in your romance? Or do you prefer your romance to include all aspects of real life, as long as it all ends happily ever after? Let me know what you think. 

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Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Willa. Violence for the sake of violence (to spice up a plot) is a no-no for me. It has to have its place. Do I want to read in detail about a woman or child getting pulverized by an out-of-control male? No. However, if it's rape, call it rape, not sexual assault. That's sugarcoating it and detracts from the horror of what happened to the victim. Words have power. Use them to get your point across. Personally, I don't like to read stories where the woman is always forgiving and the guy is always a dick, but should be forgiven because, well, he really didn't mean it. Come on, ladies. If a male (these guys aren't men) shows you who he is by hitting you, demeaning you, or trying to control you - believe him. It will only get worse no matter his empty apologies.

Fiona McGier said...

I used to refer to the "Harlequin Romance syndrome," when friends would complain to me about what an a-hole their boyfriends were. They would find the biggest jerk they could, the real "players", then get upset when the guys acted like they always did. Turns out they expected their "magic female parts" to turn a horn-dog into a pussy cat. Um, no? Life doesn't work like that. In Harlequin Romances, at least the ones popular back then, it always did. But I'd try to tell them, as Tina said, "Once an a-hole, always an a-hole." If he treats his wife/sig. other badly, in order to get to you, then it's only a matter of time before he'll treat YOU that way, while he tries to get another babe into bed.

Husband says he used to get overlooked a lot, since he was one of the nice guys, not the sexy bad boys. I told him sexy bad boys are fun to play with, as long as you know it's not serious, and it won't last. But when you're ready to settle down, ignore those sexy bad boys, and pick a nice guy. That's the cure for too much drama. And some of those nice guys are damn good in bed! Grin!